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Ratings and reviews for The Gulag Archipelago Abridged: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (P.S.)

Ratings and reviews for The Gulag Archipelago Abridged: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (P.S.)
based on 82 rating(s)
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Price: $18.99 $8.29 (56% off)
Trade In Value: $1.86
Author(s): Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Release Date: 8/7/2007
Binding: Paperback
Format: Abridged
Number of Pages: 528
Studio: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Manufacturer: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Dewey Decimal Number: 365.450947
Product Group: Book
Edition: Reissue, Abridged
Sales Rank: 1348


“It is impossible to name a book that had a greater effect on the political and moral consciousness of the late twentieth century.” —David Remnick, The New Yorker

The Nobel Prize winner’s towering masterpiece of world literature, the searing record of four decades of terror and oppression, in one abridged volume (authorized by the author). Features a new foreword by Anne Applebaum.

Drawing on his own experiences before, during and after his eleven years of incarceration and exile, on evidence provided by more than 200 fellow prisoners, and on Soviet archives, Solzhenitsyn reveals with torrential narrative and dramatic power the entire apparatus of Soviet repression, the state within the state that once ruled all-powerfully with its creation by Lenin in 1918. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims-this man, that woman, that child-we encounter the secret police operations, the labor camps and prisons, the uprooting or extermination of whole populations, the “welcome” that awaited Russian soldiers who had been German prisoners of war. Yet we also witness astounding moral courage, the incorruptibility with which the occasional individual or a few scattered groups, all defenseless, endured brutality and degradation. And Solzhenitsyn’s genius has transmuted this grisly indictment into a literary miracle.

 “The greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever leveled in modern times.” —George F. Kennan

“Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece. ... The Gulag Archipelago helped create the world we live in today.” —Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History, from the foreword

ISBN: 0061253804

Reviews 1 to 10 of 82
Pageof 9
amazon logo Believe vs. know
1. This book is an artifact of the cold war, so you can't trust everything what is said in it. Moreover, the author is not a professional scientist, he is simply one of ex-prisoners and a writer. This means, he had no access whatsoever to the facts, and his book is based on his reflections and fantasies.
2. If you want to "open your eyers" and believe that the bad guy Stalin asassinated millions of people without any reason then you should read this book. However, if you want to know the truth or something close to the truth, you should read professional research (e.g. Zemskov) or spend your time with the archives, which are open now.
3. There are plenty of lies in this book, indeed. For example, Solzshenitzyn claims that the number of victims is counted in tens of millions. This is certainly not the case (i.e., Gulag has never had more than 2 million people even in the years of s.c. purging; compare this to the number of prisoners per capita in the USA or modern Russia and be ready to get surprised).
The total number of those sentenced to death is near 700,000 over 25 years, many of them were murderers or terrorists, and some of the sentences were not executed, while Solzshenitzyn names 15, 43, 60, and even more than 100 million in his various speeches and books. This is certainly nonsense, because it does not fit any demographic data.
4. The fact that Solzshenitzyn received a Nobel prize does not mean that he is a good writer (there is political agenda behind his nomination). Only a few of his books are worth reading. Judging by a translated work is not sound anyway.
5. Solzshenitzyn is not sincere as well. He is not a "freedom fighter", the reason why he ended in Gulag is that he was escaping the military service. He knew that political convicts were not send to the front, so he did it. At that time, Russia was facing the Nazi Germany in a few kilometers from Moscow.
16 of 174 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Cold War Classic!
This is a book of the kind of testimonies that pushed the Reagan Revolution into Europe. It's 100% pure reaganaut political propaganda, of the same brand that the neocons sold us on Iraq. It's sweet and silly and full of touching fables. Of course, every event depicted was either totally fabricated or distorted beyond recognition. Now that the USSR has been dismantled, plenty of government archives are now available. Will anyone fact-check this book? No. The wall is down, and there is no further need of it. It served its purpose. There are 66 million lies in this book.
12 of 164 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Too much whining
This is a boring book about a guy who goes to prison in the Soviet Union. Throughout the book, the author whines incessantly about getting a bum rap. He believes that he was wrongfully imprisoned (That's a new one).

According to the author, he was imprisoned for criticizing the Soviet government in a letter that he wrote to a friend. But his story is not believable to me. I'm sure there is something that he isn't telling us.
He also complains a lot about the unpleasant conditions in prison.
Newsflash: Prison isn't supposed to be fun. People who are in prison should do their time and not complain about it.

There are three huge volumes in The Gulag Archipelago saga. I only read the first (unabridged) volume. Maybe the abridged version is better. I don't know. The abridged version probably cut out a lot of the author's whining, which would definitely be a plus.
7 of 134 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Makes Animal Farm Look Like a Petting Zoo, But One Big Weakness
The stuff that makes this book amazing:

1) Searing portrayal of the horror and corruptness of Stalin's Soviet Union
2) Top-notch prison vignettes and descriptions of human hope (and hopelessness) in the face of atrocity
3) Moments of great psychological insight
4) A million snapshots into a time and place so unlike any I know. If you want to read a true insanity nightmare, this is your book!

But the big weakness:

Solzhenitsyn throws out the baby (The Russian Revolution, Lenin, and the ideals of true socialism) with the bathwater (Stalinism and reaction to the Revolution). He builds a long, tangential, and overall stilted case for lumping them all in together and pasting on top the label of evil - Evil Communism. If he'd only stuck with writing about his own experiences and those of his fellows, and not been so heavy-handed with the historical background information, this book would have been a knockout. Funnily enough, I think a modern editor could easily tease out this wheat (60% of the book) from the chaff (40%).

But in part I let Solzhenitsyn off the hook, because he was a tortured, innocent Soviet prisoner in the 1940s, and clearly has residual bitterness. To use an imperfect analogy, can I understand why a raped woman might hate all men? Yes. But do I agree with her assessment of my gender? No.
10 of 47 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo A voyage through hell
"The line between good and evil runs through the heart of every human being."

This abridged edition of Solzhenitsyn's hauntingly intimate portrait of his own arrest, interrogation, imprisonment, rebellion, and eventual release during Stalin's purges is a book like no other. This book, written by a constantly watched and persecuted dissident - bent but not broken by the brutality of Stalinist work camps, shares the author's (and his other inmates') personal experiences falling into this dark, usually fatal, abyss. Solzhenitsyn's original work was published in 1971 and produced an absolutely damning indictment of communism in Russia. Indeed, the stunning quality and importance of his writing earned him a Nobel prize.

Besides his own experiences, Solzhenitsyn collected personal stories from hundreds of his fellow inmates. The sadism of interrogators, the cruelty of guards, the indifference of neighbors, the paranoia of the public, the betrayal of stoolies, and the true comradery of innocent inmates are presented in vivid, factual detail. In addition to this, the author also presents an encyclopeadic knowledge of the entirety of the gigantic Stalinist security apparatus (normal labor camps, special labor camps, transfer camps, railroad transfers, prisons, holding cells, interrogation cells, NKVD, SMERSH, commissars, exile communities, and still more).

But at the heart of it all, the book remains an unforgettable journey through man-made hell. Stalin meant to destroy every man, woman, and child arrested, regardless of their innocence, and he largely succeeded. But survivors like Solzhenitsyn did truly 'tear down the wall' and made this world a far better place to live in. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude!
45 of 45 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo The Most Important Nonfiction Work of the 20th Century
How thin is the veil we call Civilization!! This book is indeed a tedious read by virtue of its length. However, Solzhenitsyn's history is written with the prosaic style of a Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Captain in the Soviet Army as it charged through Nazi occupied Poland when he was arrested on trumped-up charges in February 1945. Thus began his odyssey through Gulag, "the country within a country". The perpetually weak economy of Communism could not survive without the forced labor of millions of is own citizens who became prisoners for one reason or another, or no reason at all. Solzhenitsyn relates his own experiences as well as those of other prisoners with whom he became acquainted while incarcerated. He relates how ordinary Russians were arrested and charged with fraudulent charges (if charged at all), interrogated, tortured and forced to confess under extreme duress, and sent off to labor for the good of the Motherland.
Throughout the book, Solzhenitsyn asks the reader incredulously, "how did we let this happen?" That is no doubt one of the most important questions posed in all of human history. If we study history in order to prevent the repetition of our mistakes, then Solzhenitsyn's work should be required reading of all residents of Planet Earth.
39 of 42 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Fills in the historical blanks left from public education
Gulag provided for me a powerful and shocking history lesson I had never been taught in high school or college. So much has been taught on Hitler, but barely anything of substance on Soviet Communism. After reading this book, you'll understand the reasons for the so-called paranoia of McCarthyism. Ronald Reagan had it right when he called the Soviet Union an "evil empire." I found this book so compelling, though heart wrenching, that I went on to read "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" as well as a recent biography on Solzhenitsyn by D. M. Thomas called "Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in His Life." I have come to the conclusion that nobody but a man like Solzhenitsyn could ever have written Gulag.
30 of 39 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo The best book I have read in years! A real eye-opener.
For any who have any nostalgia for the Soviet Union, this book should put it to rest. This book is hard to categorize; it is more than one man's opinion, but less than an objective history. It is, as Solzhenitsyn puts it, "an experiment in literary investigation": a combination memoir and dissertation on the evils of Communism and its inevitable product, the forced labor camp. Some have criticized Solzhenitsyn as an anti-Communist/pro-Western polemicist, but that is not an accurate description. He is a realist, showing not only the faults of Communists, but also those of the West and Western leaders. This should be required reading for European and world history classes. Volume 1 (of 3) describes the arrest and interrogation procedures, as well as life in the Gulag.
35 of 35 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Greatest Book Ever Written
I have the full three volume set of the Gulag that I read years ago. It is the greatest book ever written. In portraying Communism, as he described as man's inhumanity to man, Solzhenitsyn has an exceptional ability while depicting the excessively cruel treatment of human beings in the Gulag to demonstrate his dignity and the dignity of those who suffered at the hands of their oppressors. The entire book is full of stories of the courage of human beings in the face of such evil. In that way, while depicting the horrible conditions of the Gulag, the book ultimately provides an uplifting message that peace and kindness are enduring human traits that can and do shine through despite overwhelming attempts to erase them. Never has there been a more courageous and humane writer.
30 of 32 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Holy smoke!
After I read this book I bought a rifle!
12 of 31 people found this review helpful.

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